A perfect send-off

Alex Ferguson led his team out for one final time at Old Trafford on May 12 against Swansea and the match was won 2-1. The contest was hardly a great one and if not for Rio Ferdinand’s 87th-minute winner, it would have been conspicuously short of thrill value.

With one more round to go, few issues remain unsettled. Though Chelsea has almost assured itself of UEFA Champions League football next season, the final spot still remains on offer for Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

Similarly, the last team to be relegated is yet to be identified, though Wigan Athletic is now seemingly fighting a lost battle. Roberto Martinez’s side’s shock FA Cup victory could be its only solace from an otherwise disappointing season.

As the proceedings on the pitch fail to enthuse the league’s followers, the focus has already shifted to a rumbling carousel of managers and players to be appointed, sacked or sold post-season.

Amid the talk of Jose Mourinho’s return, Roberto Mancini’s potential sacking and the discontinuation of Arsene Wenger’s ambitious project at Arsenal, one story stood out, for obvious reasons, throughout the week — Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson’s retirement from football and the subsequent appointment of David Moyes as Manchester United’s manager.

The 71-year-old led his team out for one final time at Old Trafford on May 12 against Swansea and the match was won 2-1. The contest was hardly a great one and if not for Rio Ferdinand’s 87th-minute winner, it would have been conspicuously short of thrill value.

But the match proceedings were not the showpiece event of Sir Alex’s final afternoon at his “second home”. The festivities that followed the full-time whistle were, probably, a more befitting celebration of the vetran’s achievements in the past 27 years or so.

The sense that a golden era was coming to end at Old Trafford was inescapable. Paul Scholes also announced he’s retiring for a second time and won’t be returning again, Sir Alex acknowledged Wayne Rooney had filed in a transfer request and the rest of the squad will now have to adapt to a new manager’s ideas.

For a club that hasn’t overseen a regime change in such a long time, the task does seem overwhelming. The side is accustomed to regular domestic success and with other title rivals plotting a strategy to wrest the title away next season by appointing new managers and star players, Moyes may soon find himself in an unenviable position.

For what it’s worth, in his post-match speech to the fans from the centre of the pitch, Sir Alex urged them to support the new manager as they had supported him. The 13-time EPL winner will continue to be a director at the club and his support will be vital for Moyes.

The former Everton manager’s biggest test, arguably, will arrive on the European stage. Moyes has never managed in the UEFA Champions League group stages and United’s relatively low success in the competition could weigh heavy on his tenure.

A successful campaign in the UEFA Champions League would depend on the financial resources in the Scot’s possession, with Rooney’s discontentment at the club another major issue. The squad is light in central midfield and money needs to be spent on the wide men too.

Notably, Antonio Valencia has been United’s best winger this season with only a goal and five assists to show for his displays.

Moyes could benefit from taking Marouane Fellaini with him through the exit door at Everton as his powerful presence would add much needed steel to United’s midfield.

It was the other Belgian in Kevin Mirallas, however, who gave the 50-year-old manager the perfect Goodison Park farewell by scoring a brace in his side’s 2-0 win over West Ham.

Elsewhere, Spurs came from behind to defeat Stoke 2-1 while Chelsea did the same against Aston Villa in a match which saw both sides finish with 10 men.

Compiled by Priyansh